How’s your protein knowledge? Answer these quick-fire questions to find out:
- Do you need to eat protein to be healthy?
- If so, how much protein should you eat per day?
- What are the healthiest sources of protein?
Most of the clients I work with can answer a resounding yes to the first question. They can even back up their answer with some reasoning, “I need protein to build and repair my muscles”.
Its great that people are aware of this basic role of dietary protein, however this only represents a fraction of the important things it does within your body.
The answers to question 2 and 3 usually involve blank stares and a scratching of the head!
That’s perfectly fine, I don’t expect any of my clients, or you, to be a nutritional genius (if you were you probably wouldn’t need my or anyone else's help!). The aim of this article is to arm you with some solid protein knowledge so that you can understand this reasons why you need protein in your diet, select the healthiest sources during your next trip to the supermarket and eat the right amount so that you can move towards your goals.
Protein plays a variety of important roles within your body. Its most well known role is building and repairing body tissues, such as skin, hair, nails, and muscles, however by serving as building blocks, proteins play many other highly specialized roles within your body, including:
- Enzymes: as a base ingredient for enzymes, proteins help to carry out metabolic reactions within your body to break things down for energy or put things together for growth.
- Antibodies: protein builds antibodies which support your immune system and keep you healthy by fighting against infections and foreign invaders.
- Hormones: proteins are important ingredients for various hormones within your body, such as insulin and growth hormone.
- Detoxification: by supporting your body’s detoxification pathways, protein helps you rid yourself of harmful toxins.
- Hemoglobin: these red blood cells deliver oxygen to the cells within your body and are comprised of proteins.
- Neuro transmitters: important brain chemicals (such as serotonin and GABA) communicate information throughout your brain and body and are also made from protein.
- Fat loss: protein helps you lose weight because it fills you up, helps to build calorie burning muscle tissue and requires a lot of energy to be digested.
Now you know the various ways in which protein supports your health it’s time to shift our focus onto how much of it you should you eat per day?
Optimal protein intake is highly individualized. Your protein needs are determined by a number of factors such as your body weight, age, the amount and type of exercise you perform, and your fitness goals.
The reality is your protein needs are more like a moving target rather than a fixed daily amount. On some days, such as heavy workout days, or on days which you are recovering from strenuous training, your body will require more protein to build and repair tissues than days where you aren't hitting the gym or experiencing sore muscles.
The Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume 10-35% of calories from protein - thats a huge range!
When it comes to weight loss I typically recommend about 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight (thats about 1 gram per Ib).
playing with numbers
As a rule of thumb, the more active you are the higher your protein intake should be.
If you work out regularly or hold a labor intensive job (such as a brick layer or gardener) you'll need at least 1.6g of protein per kg of body weight to meet the physical demands of your lifestyle.
Conversely if you are gym shy and/or generally live a more sedentary lifestyle (maybe you are an office worker) you do just fine on much less.
If you are not logging your food intake with a tracker such as myfitnesspal or a paper food diary I suggest you pay attention to your appetite and cravings. If you find yourself needing to snack in-between meals and constantly hungry you probably need to eat more protein and non-starchy vegetables and drink more water to help fight those hunger pangs.
Now that you have a good idea of how much protein you should eat, it’s time to discover what some of the best protein sources are.
Here is a quick list to get you started:
Hopefully you're feeling a little more protein savvy now!
If you would like to discover a simple, flexible and sustainable way to lose weight and be healthy shoot me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up a free 20 minute phone or Skype call. We can chat about your goals, the roadblocks you are facing in reaching them and lay out some potential coaching options for you.
Thanks for reading!